The Best Speed Workouts for Beginners


Are you ready to run fast? If you're new to running (or have previously only logged miles for fun), speed work might be a little intimidating. Luckily, we've compiled a list of the best workouts for runners just getting started. Check out our favorite ways to increase speed, and before you know it, you'll be making small talk about fartleks and tempos with the best of them.


Strides are one of the easiest ways to get started with speed work. Typically done at the end of an easy run, strides are approximately 30-second pick-ups at close to max effort. It's not quite an all-out sprint. Instead, imagine you're nearing the finish line of a race. Begin with four strides and work on increasing up to eight strides after a few sessions. Following each stride, rest for about 30 seconds with walking or easy jogging.

Fartlek Runs

Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play." Essentially, it's a type of run in which you alternate between fast and slow running. There are an endless number of ways to run a fartlek, but one of the most common is to choose an object (stop signs, for example) and pick up the pace every time you see one. Once you reach the predetermined object, slow down until you spot another one.

Track Workouts

If you're new to the track, centering your workout around the curves and straightaways is a great way to get comfortable. After a 10-minute warm-up, head to the track and sprint the straight portions while jogging the curved portions. Aim for four to eight laps.

Anywhere, Anytime Speed Work

A workout you can do anywhere (the roads, trails or treadmill) is 10x1 minute hard, 1 minute easy. After warming up, alternate running 1 minute at a comfortably hard pace followed by 1 minute of easy jogging. As you increase fitness, you can lengthen the hard portion of the run to 2, 3 or more minutes.

Variable Pace Run

If you're looking to shake up your usual pace but don't feel like a difficult workout, consider a variable pace run. First, determine your usual pace range. If you usually fall somewhere between a 9- and 10-minute pace on easy runs, a variable pace run might look like this: 5 minutes at a 10-minute pace, 5 minutes at a 9:30-minute pace and then 5 minutes at a 9-minute pace. Repeat until you've run for a total of 30 to 60 minutes.

Pyramid Run

Ready to try a traditional track workout? Tackle the pyramid run. After warming up, run the following distances on the track: 400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m and 400m. Each segment should be at about your 5K race pace, and you should jog for 2 to 3 minutes in between each hard effort.

Fast Finish Long Run

Are you preparing for a longer race like a half marathon? If so, the fast finish long run is the perfect way to get faster. Once or twice during your training cycle, plan on beginning a long run at an easy pace and then gradually get faster. By the final mile or two, you should be running close to race pace.

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